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A deflated balloon

Fringe Festival: New Paradise Laboratories’ The Adults’ (second review)

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Matteo Scammell in "The Adults" (photo by Kate Raines, www.plate3photography.com)
Matteo Scammell in "The Adults" (photo by Kate Raines, www.plate3photography.com)

This production is a frustrating experience. The acting and the body movements are spectacular. The drama, however, is diffuse and fails to honor the source material.

The company announced that this presentation was inspired by Chekov’s The Seagull. Indeed, there are some character parallels.

Instead of Sorin, a retired civil servant in failing health, we have Wiszie (Matt Saunders) who is wearing a catheter, apparently connected to a urostomy. In The Seagull, we saw Treplev as a young aspiring dramatist and the son of a famous thespian, as is this play’s Alex (Matteo Scammell). Nina was a neighboring young woman who wanted to be an actress, and she’s approximated by Mia (Emilie Krause). Instead of shooting a seagull, these “adults” shoot darts at a balloon that deflates.

Yet The Adults fails to match the clear dramatic narrative of Chekhov. Its plot is foggy and obscure. What’s more, The Seagull’s characters display their hopes, fears, and conflicted emotions, while The Adults present an icy and sterile display of stylized movement, devoid of humanity.

Eric Fischl’s paintings, which inspired this play’s creators, championed the display of nude figures in naturalistic poses. The Adults is the farthest thing possible from naturalism, and there’s no nudity in it. (That’s a minor point, but it’s yet another illustration of how the new play fails to realize its intentions.)

As a display of visceral body movements, however, The Adults is a wonder to behold. Affected and ostentatious to be sure, but the cast and Whit MacLaughlin for his direction deserve ovations for their agility. Scammell in particular is spectacularly flexible and muscular.

For a review by Jake Blumgart, click here, and for one by Carol Rocamora, click here.

What, When, Where

The Adults. A New Paradise Laboratories production for the Fringe Festival. Whit MacLaughlin directed. Through September 14 at the Painted Bride, 230 Vine Street, Philadelphia. www.newparadiselaboratories.org or www.fringearts.com.

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